For years the official capacities of each campus arena crept up in telling increments, with each school expanding its building in turn or reinstalling or reconfiguring seats. All this groping for a recruiting advantage ended in 1986, when the Tar Heels opened their 21,572-seat Dean E. Smith Center. As it happened, at the Dean Dome's first public event Mickie Krzyzewski, Mike's wife, found herself in the only broken seat in the house. Embarrassed, an arena official offered to move her anywhere else. Wife K, steeped in the protocol of the rivalry, proudly refused to budge.
Freshmen arriving in the Triangle go through much the same indoctrination as Heyman did in the meaning of the word clan. "You'll always be my boy," Tar Heel alum and then Chicago Bull Michael Jordan told Chris Collins, a former Bull ball boy, after Collins signed with Duke several years ago. "But now that you're a Dookie, I can't talk to you anymore."
"I think he was kidding," Collins says today.
"Coming from New Jersey, I liked Carolina and Duke," says Tar Heel senior forward Pat Sullivan. "I was friendly with [Blue Devils] Grant Hill, Tony Lang and Kenny Blakeney from summer camps, and my first year I thought we might hang out." Hah. Hanging out is done for only one purpose. "If you beat Carolina, you wanted to go over there the next day," says Hill. Adds former Tar Heel guard Derrick Phelps, "If we won, they'd be seeing us in Durham."
Thus does every meeting take on huge significance. "If you're having a poor season and you beat Carolina, you've had a good season," says former Duke guard Bob Bender, who is now the coach at Washington. "If you're having a great season and you lose twice to Carolina, you've had a tarnished season. And if you lose three times to Carolina...well, you've had a tragic season. My junior year we almost played five times: We met them once in the old Big Four tournament, twice in the regular season and once in the ACC tournament. The teams were in the same regional in the NCAAs, but both got beat. Imagine playing a game that intense five times in a year."
You imagine it, and then watch someone who nearly did it shake his head fretfully at the very thought. "It's a good reason," says Bender, "to go to Wake [Forest] or [N.C.] State."
Once vested in the rivalry, the players embrace it spiritedly. Before his last regular-season game, in 1981 against the Tar Heels, Duke's Gene Banks put on a tuxedo and threw roses to the crowd at Cameron. A few hours later, with a second left to play in regulation, Banks stuck a thorn of a turnaround jumper in North Carolina to force overtime in a game the Blue Devils would win 66-65. "It was the closest I've ever felt to being next to God," Banks has said. "And I don't mean that to be blasphemous."
Former Tar Heel James Worthy still tells Smith that he never lost to Duke, because a sprained ankle kept him out of a Carolina loss to the Blue Devils. But no one recalls minor details like Worthy's absence. "It really is the schools, not the players," says Smith. "Like the end of the 1993 season, when we beat them, Grant Hill was out. But there's no asterisk. Only, 'We beat Duke.' "
This season the rivalry has spilled into the college basketball press, which is peopled disproportionately by graduates of the two schools. North Carolina alumnus Art Chansky, who edits a Tar Heel annual called Carolina Court, recently wrote a screed in which he called Duke a "haven for hype and hypocrisy." Noting that the line outside Cameron's only women's room forms late in the first half and lasts well beyond intermission, he pronounced Duke's holy shrine a place "where there's more brass in the railings than porcelain in the bathrooms."
A riposte of sorts came from John Feinstein, who reported on ESPN2 in January that Wallace was blowing off classes. "The first thing you have to understand," said Smith in denying the report, "is [John's] a Duke graduate."